Fulfilling Christ's call to love God, live in community, and serve our neighbor

The Voices of the Church

Pastor Ginny Tobiassen sees the benefit of our differences

(Ginny wrote this article for the most recent issue of Home to Home, the monthly Home Church newsletter.)

Have you heard? Three times a day, the Home Church chimes play a Moravian hymn. If you are nearby at 9 a.m., noon, or 5 p.m., you’ll hear bells tolling hymns like “Christian Hearts, in Love United,” “Jesus Makes My Heart Rejoice,” and (my personal favorite) “The Springs of Salvation.”

Recently, I was happily singing the noon hymn with the chimes when something strange happened. About halfway through the hymn, the chimes started to play another melody simultaneously—a “change ring” that was out of step with the hymn. At the same time, Susan Foster, who was practicing in the sanctuary, hit a loud series of crashing chords on the organ. Three resonant voices that all sound wonderful by themselves created serious confusion when heard all at once!

Throughout that day I thought about how many melodies make up the song of our life at Home Church. Each melody is a separate voice, making its contribution. Each is beautiful in its way. When we hear different melodies one on top of the other, the effect can be momentarily jarring. Yet hearing different musical ideas is worth risking the occasional clash of chords.

The church as a whole—God’s worldwide church—is a symphony of different voices. Sometimes they harmonize; sometimes they clash. You don’t have to take my word for it. Just reread the letters of the Apostle Paul, who spent much of his time trying to reconcile different voices in the early church.

But every voice has something to offer to the life of the church. Everyone brings a melody worth hearing. What’s more, hearing those melodies may inspire us in ways that (at first) we don’t even notice.

Here’s an example: Sometimes the chimes don't play for a few days.

Then, one day, I’ll be sitting at my desk around noon and suddenly realize that I’m singing a hymn as I work. Why? Because the bells are tolling it in the air outside. In other words: I don’t notice that the chimes have returned until their voices have already inspired me to sing!

We may not always recognize the importance of the different voices in the church, until some unexpected voice—perhaps a person we’ve never met, with an unusual story to tell—inspires us to lift our own in an expression of faith. That’s one good reason to keep our ears open to one another—and to use our different voices, without fearing the occasional clash of chords, to share our resonant stories of faith, love, and hope.